Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi: Lotus can weather loss of Allison

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Kimi Raikkonen said Thursday in Barcelona that despite Lotus technical director James Allison leaving the team, the team can weather the storm from a technical perspective.

“For me it doesn’t really make a difference,” he told Autosport, among others. “I cannot tell if it will make a difference in one week or in one year, or if it won’t make a difference at all. It’s not like it suddenly happened one day. People have discussed it and the team will have known it was coming for a while.”

It was announced Wednesday that Nick Chester, who had been Lotus’ engineering director, will take over the role from this weekend.

Raikkonen added that the shift will make no impact on what he opts to do for 2014. The 2007 World Champion has said previously that he’d wait until later in the year to make any decisions about his future.

Can Dixon, Kanaan, Castroneves still catch Pagenaud, Power for IndyCar crown?

Can Phoenix winner and defending IndyCar champ Scott Dixon, middle, catch Simon Pagenaud or Will Power for the IndyCar championship?
(Photos courtesy IndyCar)
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In Major League Baseball, the 4-5-6 batters are typically the meat of the batting order. It’s those three players that play one of the biggest parts in determining which team becomes the ultimate champion each season.

Now, 4-5-6 in the standings of the Verizon IndyCar Series is a bit of a different matter.

Sure, fourth-ranked Scott Dixon is a four-time IndyCar champ and Indianapolis 500 winner, fifth-ranked Helio Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner, and sixth-ranked Tony Kanaan is both a series champion and Indy 500 winner.

That sounds like an IndyCar equivalent of baseball’s Murderer’s Row, right?

But following Monday’s weather-rescheduled ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, the 4-5-6 drivers in the IndyCar Series rankings have three races left to hit nothing but home runs if they hope to throw a curveball into Simon Pagenaud’s and Will Power’s championship plans.

Six points separate the trio: Dixon has 386 points, 111 points short of Pagenaud (497 points, with Power a close second at 477 points). Castroneves has 384 (-113) and Kanaan has 380 (-117).

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Scott Dixon

And let’s not forget about Josef Newgarden, sitting third at 397 points, exactly 100 markers behind Pagenaud and 80 points in arrears to Power. But Newgarden will almost certainly drop out of realistic contention with a last-place finish looming at Texas Motor Speedway after he crashed out in June, and won’t be able to restart.

The respective finishes of Dixon (sixth), Kanaan (ninth) and Castroneves (19th) at Pocono also didn’t help their championship chances, because Power won. Pagenaud failed to finish but still looms far ahead.

Right now, a maximum of 211 points is up for grabs in the remaining three races. That breaks down to 50 points each to the winner at Texas and Watkins Glen, and double points (100) to the winner of the season finale at Sonoma.

There’s also one point for the pole winner in each of the final three races, although Carlos Munoz will get that point at Texas since he got the pole there back in June.

In addition, each of the three remaining races – as all others – awards one point if a driver leads at least one lap and two points to the driver who leads the most laps.

With his win Monday, Power earned almost the maximum amount of points at Pocono, capturing 51 of a possible 54. Pagenaud, who finished 18th, earned just 13 points, allowing Power to cut Pagenaud’s lead in the standings by 38 points, more than half of what it was coming into the race (58 points).

Dixon climbed one position, from fifth to fourth, with his Pocono finish. But he knows time is running to defend last year’s championship – particularly with this being the last year for him with Target sponsorship.

Here’s what Dixon had to say after Pocono:

“We started in the rear of the field and that didn’t help our cause with the Target team. We got held up in the second to last restart and some lapped cars didn’t go when they should have and that really cost us in terms of track position for sure. We clawed our way back into the mix but with so many good cars out there it was hard to get all the way to the front to contend.”

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Tony Kanaan

Kanaan slipped slightly in the standings from fifth to sixth after his Pocono finish.

Here’s what Kanaan had to say afterwards:

“We just couldn’t catch a break during the race. Every time we’d make a run toward the front, something would go wrong. We had a mechanical issue that was affecting the fuel system and that caused a lot of problems for us. Then we lost a piece of our rear bumper pod that caused that last yellow. It just wasn’t our day.”

Lastly, Castroneves had a performance Monday that he’d rather forget. While he started strong (fourth), he was involved in a scary pit road crash not of his doing when Alexander Rossi and Charlie Kimball made contact.

Rossi, this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, bounced off Kimball’s car and ran over the top of Castroneves’ car as he was trying to leave his pit stall.

The tires on Rossi’s car made visible marks on the top of the cockpit of Castroneves’ car and then the car continued until it had climbed over and landed back on the pavement on all four wheels. Castroneves suffered a slight bruise to his right hand but was otherwise uninjured in the scary mishap.

But his hand isn’t the thing that really hurt. Castroneves’ resulting 19th place finish saw him drop from third to fifth in the standings. Given that he’s 117 points behind Pagenaud and 97 behind Power, his Team Penske teammate, Castroneves’ hopes for his elusive first career IndyCar championship are slim, indeed – unless perhaps he wins each of the next three races.

And that still may not be enough to win it all if Pagenaud and/or Power have strong finishes in at least two of those last three.

One thing’s for certain: neither Castroneves nor Dixon or Kanaan are giving up.

Here’s what Castroneves had to say about Monday’s race, the pit road incident, as well as moving on to Texas:

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Helio Castroneves

“Inside the car, I was actually more protected than what it looked like. Sometime people don’t realize the Verizon IndyCar Series are so much about safety and today is the proof of that.

“Very glad that nobody got hurt. It’s just a shame. The Hitachi Chevy was really having a good day and we just had another good pit stop when I was coming out of the pits.

“All of a sudden there was a car on top of me. It was a little strange to be honest. The Team Penske guys worked really hard to try and fix the car but there was a lot of damage.

“It’s certainly unfortunate because this will hurt us in the championship battle but our team will never give up. We’ll move on to Texas where, fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success.”

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Carpenter’s hope for oval resurgence once again goes round in circles

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(Photo courtesy of Chris Jones/IndyCar)
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Just when he was hoping for a dramatic improvement, Ed Carpenter’s season of discontent behind the wheel continues.

The owner of Ed Carpenter Racing had high hopes for a strong finish in Monday’s weather-rescheduled ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Running his usual schedule of ovals only, Carpenter qualified a respectable 10th at Pocono and had a car that in practice looked like it could be a top-10 finisher in the actual race itself.

But for the third time in his four oval races this season (Phoenix, Indianapolis, Iowa and Pocono), Carpenter and his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet came up short due to an unspecified mechanical issue that knocked him out of the race just 57 laps into the 200-lap event.

At Phoenix, Carpenter had his best qualifying effort of the season (fifth) and managed to complete 195 of 200 laps before crashing and finishing 21st.

In the Indianapolis 500, he started 20th and finished 31st in the 33-car field when an oxygen sensor went bad just two laps from the midpoint of the 200-lap race.

Carpenter had his best outing of the year at Iowa, finishing 18th. However, he finished just 284 of the race’s 300 laps with another mechanical issue occurring on a pit stop and a bunch of time lost. The gear cluster needed to be changed.

And then came Pocono on Monday, another outcome that left Carpenter disappointed.

“Ed Carpenter Racing has performed so awesome this year and the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car can’t catch a break,” Carpenter said after Monday’s race. “I haven’t finished a full race this season.

“I made one mistake at Phoenix, but other than that we’ve just had things happen. Some of it shouldn’t have happened and could have been avoided, so there’s just a lot of frustration.”

Carpenter has one more oval race left on his schedule: this Saturday’s resumption of the rain-delayed race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“This is one of my last two races this year and I felt really good coming into (Monday),” Carpenter said of Pocono. “I’m not going to comment on what happened specifically, it won’t do any good to talk about it out in the open. It’s just frustrating.”

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Pocono is best superspeedway finish for Bourdais since IndyCar return

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Since returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series part-time in 2011 and full-time in 2013, French driver Sebastien Bourdais has four wins in 87 starts and eight podium finishes.

But in all of those starts, Bourdais had never scored a top-five on a superspeedway.

His best finish at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was seventh in 2014. His best finish on Fontana’s 2-miler was 12th in 2013.

And prior to Monday, his best finish at Pocono Raceway’s 2.5-mile “tricky triangle” was 16th (2013 and 2014).

But in Monday’s weather-delayed ABC Supply 500, Bourdais achieved a career-best performance on a superspeedway, as his No. 11 Team Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet finished fifth.

Bourdais qualified 18th but was fourth-quickest in race trim in the final practice before Monday’s rescheduled race. While he started slow, he methodically worked his way up through the field until he cracked the top-10 on Lap 91 of the 200-lap, 500-mile event.

On Lap 177, Bourdais and his team gambled on their final pit stop. Instead of a full service stop, the team went with only fuel and not tires.

That moved Bourdais up to second place from seventh and his second win of 2016 (first was Belle Isle 1) appeared a strong possibility.

While the gamble worked in theory, it was foiled by a glitch in the computer blend line software, which erroneously placed Bourdais in third on the ensuing restart.

When the green flag fell, Bourdais had a slow restart and fell back two more spots to fifth. He briefly climbed back to forth, but eventual third-place finisher Ryan Hunter-Reay passed him, relegating Bourdais to where he’d ultimately finish: in fifth.

“It was a pretty good day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team,” Bourdais said after the race. “We took some penalties with long pit stops to set the car up early on, but even though we were marginal on front grip we were running a pretty solid race.

“We passed Dixie (Scott Dixon), passed Kanaan (Tony), passed some Penskes, not the top one, but when you do that, things are going pretty good. Then you end up finishing fifth after there was some computer confusion about our position on the restart.”

Bourdais remains 14th in the IndyCar point standings, but Monday’s finish was his eighth top-10 showing in the first 13 races of the season.

“Overall, you have to consider that it was a great day,” Bourdais said of Pocono. “It was definitely our strongest showing on a super speedway.

“We learned something this weekend, something we have been missing. The crew did a really good job and the Hydroxycut Chevy machine was really strong. So I am really happy with the result.”

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The next Race of Champions confirmed for Jan. 21-22 in Miami

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Photos: Race of Champions
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The Race of Champions will make its first visit to the U.S. for the event’s next running; the all-star event won’t run in its usual December slot, but instead shifts to January in Miami next Jan. 21-22, 2017.

The event will now run one week before the traditional kickoff to the next year’s North American road racing calendar, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which runs Jan. 28-29. The Roar Before the Rolex 24 runs Jan. 6-8.

All-star drivers from around the world in various disciplines of motorsport compete in the RoC. The release confirming the details is linked below:

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The Race Of Champions (ROC) is heading to the United States of America for the first time in its history after Miami’s Marlins Park baseball stadium won the rights to host the next ROC event on January 21-22, 2017.

Built in 2012, Marlins Park is the home of the Miami Marlins, the city’s Major League Baseball franchise. The stadium features a retractable roof and can seat over 37,000 fans, who are more used to watching fastballs than fast cars. It is set to host the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game next July. Now it has seen off contenders from all over the world to stage the prestigious Race Of Champions, which will take place within the confines of the stadium itself.

In recent years ROC has visited the Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London’s Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena (2010-2011), the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012), Bushy Park Barbados (2014) and London’s former Olympic Stadium (2015).

Now the event is heading to the United States for the first time to soak up the heat of Miami. Florida’s sports fans will have a chance to watch the speediest action Marlins Park has ever seen as many of the world’s greatest drivers push to the absolute limit on a specially-designed racing track winding its way around the outfield.

The Race Of Champions is an annual contest which has been held for over 25 years. It brings together some of the world’s greatest drivers from motor sport’s major disciplines – including Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans, MotoGP, World Rally and the X Games – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery.

Germany’s four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel took his first ROC Champion of Champions title in London last year after many years of trying. Now he will return to defend his crown in Miami – but first he will have to see off motor sport’s finest competitors from all over the world.

Vettel said: “I’m very happy to have finally won the individual Race Of Champions title last year in London’s Olympic Stadium and I look forward to defending my title at ROC in Miami. All the drivers are strong, and the top US drivers from NASCAR and IndyCar will certainly be extra motivated to win in front of their home fans now that the event is being held in their country for the first time.

“This will also be the first time ROC has been held in a baseball stadium so I’m curi-ous to discover the new track layout. But as always it’s the same track and identical cars for everyone so only driver skill makes the difference. The racing at ROC is al-ways very intense and the head-to-head duels often decided by fractions of a se-cond, so it’s just one strategy; flat out from start to finish!

“The Race Of Champions reminds us a lot about why we all first started racing; it’s about pure competition. The competition is very intense on the track and everyone wants to win, but it’s also about putting on a great show for the fans. I think all the drivers who have had the honour to participate in ROC fell in love with the event. It’s a privilege to be invited and to be able to come back.”

The first American drivers to sign up for ROC Miami have been unveiled as NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy, Haas Automation Chevy and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

They both have fine pedigrees of their own at the Race Of Champions. At Barbados in 2014 both Busch and Hunter-Reay topped their groups in style with three wins out of three en route to the quarter-finals. Now both drivers can look forward to soaking up the adulation of their home fans as they slug it out to take Vettel’s crown in Miami.

Busch said: “I’m honoured to once again be invited to the Race Of Champions. I had a great time last time out in Barbados and given that this year’s event will be in the US, it will make it that much more exciting. In addition, representing the US in my country will be special.

“The ROC is a particular challenge that tests versatility and adaptability with little margin for error. If the format was not challenging enough, you throw in World Champions from all kinds of disciplines, with various types of cars, which makes for a good recipe. And no matter how much we all like to say it’s ‘just for fun…’ we all want to win this prestigious event.”

Hunter-Reay added: “I’m delighted to be making my fourth straight appearance at the Race Of Champions – and especially this time with the event taking place on American soil, better yet my own backyard!”

“It is a spectacular event and a unique challenge to jump in and out of all the different cars as you go head-to-head with some of the best drivers in the world, it is a tremendous honor to be selected as a competitor for ROC. I’m proud to represent America, IndyCar and the Indy 500 and I look forward to hearing the noise of the crowds in Miami and feeling that hometown support.”

The Race Of Champions is run over two days: first comes the Race Of Champions itself (on Saturday January 21) with a flat-out battle for individual glory. Then on Sunday January 22 it’s the ROC Nations Cup when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World’s Fastest Nation’. All the racing takes place in a stunning range of superfast cars.

But that’s not all. The Race Of Champions is a non-stop action event from start to finish and also features stunt shows on four wheels and two plus DJs, cheerleaders and plenty of other entertainment to keep the race fans on the edge of their seats. Tickets for both days of action have gone on sale today from http://www.raceofchampions.com.

ROC President Fredrik Johnsson said: “We are thrilled to be bringing the Race Of Champions to the United States at last. Miami’s Marlins Park is a wonderful venue and it’s our first time inside a baseball stadium. Rest assured we will put together a truly memorable event for fans of fast cars and even faster drivers.

“American race fans are passionate about their sport and I’m sure they will enjoy the great competition and shows we put on. We look forward to welcoming a packed crowd to enjoy the sight of some of the world’s best drivers battling it out. If you like non-stop action, noise and excitement, the Race Of Champions is the perfect event for you.”

Tickets for ROC Miami are now available via http://www.raceofchampions.com. For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of this year’s event please visit http://www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook plus @raceofchampions and #ROCMiami on Twitter.